October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best classic horror movies is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Blame it on bad English teachers or dull episodes of Masterpiece Theater, but somewhere along the way the world generally decided that “the classics” were boring. Some folks even go so far as to say they hate the classics, which, frankly, I don’t find entirely surprising, even from horror fans. Classic horror movies don’t have the same flashy editing and gory deaths you come to expect from your favorite ’80s slasher, so you write them off as being slow and stuffy, and you refocus your attention on your conspiracy theories about the Man in Black in Halloween 5.
But the differences between classic and modern horror movies are exactly why you should get excited about these older titles. Just consider all of the ways these movies managed to scare their audiences for decades. Their horror had to be more cerebral, more suggestive, focusing on a deep sense of unease that is supported by the heavily stylized design elements that the filmmakers used in order to bring their ghouls and ghosts to life. These movies couldn’t rely on the scare tactics that modern horror can, so they got clever and found inventive ways to burrow themselves deep under your skin.
Instead of giving you a “Beginners Guide” to the must-see classics you probably already know about, this selection of pre-1970s horror movies chosen by Anna Swanson, Brad Gullickson, Chris Coffel, Kieran Fisher, Meg Shields, Rob Hunter, Valerie Ettenhofer, and me exemplify just how subversive and daring classic horror has always been. Put on your reading glasses, and let’s learn a thing or two about the best classic horror movies for folks who think they won’t like the classics.